Feeding Tour: The Feeding Tour is 1-hour long and Feeding Tour guests must be at least 10 years of age.
Feeders and Feeding Tour Guides: The Coordinator will assign the feeder and tour guide to lead the Feeding Tour. Optimally there will be a minimum of one feeder and one tour guide assigned to the Feeding Tour. This may vary depending on the number of guests that are scheduled for the tour. Because there are big cats on the Feeding Tour, a certified Senior Keeper will be assigned as the feeder. The Feeding Tour guide, if not the feeder, may be a yellow, green, or navy level volunteer from either the Keeper or Partner department or a Level 2 Intern. A Feeding Tour Script is provided as a part of this class and should be utilized to provide the guests with information regarding the diets and feeding practices.
Guest Arrival: The guests must sign release forms and pay for their tour before the Feeding Tour begins. After all of the guests have arrived, signed in, and paid, one of the tour guides or a backup should escort them to the white gate and radio for it to be opened. The Feeding Tour begins outside of Food Prep.
Feeding Tour Rules for Guests: Prior to the start of the tour, the Feeding Tour Guide should go over the following rules with the guests. All tour guides are responsible for the safety of their guests and may request a back up if one is not assigned.
Feeding Tour Route: There is a designated Feeding Tour Route and animals that are assigned to be fed on the Feeding Tour. Please refer to the Feeding Map to familiarize yourself with the animals that are on the tour. Before beginning the Feeding Tour, the tour guide should explain to the guests that there are a certain number of animals on the Feeding Tour that are a good representation of the species living at the sanctuary. The tour guide should also explain that the tour group will only stop for a short amount of time at a limited number of cats that are on the Feeding Tour Route. In order to move the tour group along the tour guide can politely remind the guests that they should move along so the last cat on the Feeding Tour does not have to wait too long for it’s dinner. For more detailed information, please refer to attached tour script.
Food Explanation: The guests are here to learn about the diets of the cats and how they are fed as well as the hunting habits of the cats in the wild. Please refer to the Feeding Tour Script for information regarding diets, feeding practices, and specific hunting behaviors.
Feeding Tour Rules for Feeders and Tour Guides:
Conclusion of the Feeding Tour:
At the completion of the Feeding Tour escort your guests back to the Gift Shop. Please be available to answer any additional questions the guests might have once they are back in the Gift Shop or parking lot. The Feeding Tour Guide, feeder, or back up will be needed to remain in the parking lot to let the guests out of the front gate.
Feeding Tour Guide Certification (non-feeder): To become a certified Feeding Tour guide the volunteers must be a yellow, green, or navy level Keeper or Partner and must have observed the Feeding Tour three times. Then the volunteer must lead the Feeding Tour with the assistance of a certified Feeding Tour guide three times. Certification is at the trainer’s discretion and volunteers may require more than three observation or instructional sessions.
Feeding Tour Guide & Feeder Certification (feeder): To become a certified Feeding Tour guide that can both guide the tour and feed the animals on the tour the volunteer must be a green or navy level Keeper that is certified to feed all red, yellow, and green level animals and must have observed the Feeding Tour three times. Then the volunteer must lead the Feeding Tour with the assistance of a certified Feeding Tour guide three times. Certification is at the trainer’s discretion and volunteers may require more than three observation or instructional sessions.
Scheduling Yourself to Guide the Feeding Tour: Feeding Tour Guide openings are listed on the appropriate days on the Volgistics calendar. In addition to scheduling yourself on the calendar for your volunteer day, please also schedule yourself for these tours if you plan on guiding them. This system helps us to ensure that we have adequate coverage for all of the day’s duties. You can access the Volgistics calendar by using one of the Time Tracking Stations or by going to this link; https://www.volgistics.com/ex/portal.dll/?FROM=36622
QUALIFIED TEACHERS FOR THIS CLASS ARE: Angie.Gabor@BigCatRescue.org, Becky.Gagliardo@BigCatRescue.org, Jennifer.Ruszczyk@BigCatRescue.org,
Print out Feeding Tour Guide Certification form.
QUIZ AT LINK
Feeding Tour Guide Script
This is meant to be a guideline, not memorized verbatim. I put a lot of extra facts in here in case you are stumped for something to say (which happens to me all the time!) Don’t feel like you have to say it all — there isn’t time. Just be sure to know the basics. Hope this helps!
Remind guests to follow the feeding cart, and not to linger at animals who are not on the feeding tour, as the other cats are hungry and waiting for their food
INTRO TO FEEDING AT BCR (WHAT, WHEN, WHY, HOW, ETC.)
Short intro to what we do at BCR in general for people who haven’t been here before (ask first if anyone has): BCR is a sanctuary for rescued big cats. We have over 100 cats and 13 different species, more than any other place in the world. We don’t breed, buy, sell or trade cats. When they come here, they stay for the rest of their lives. We are a no contact facility, so we don’t touch the cats or go inside the cage with them, unless it’s for veterinary purposes. We try to educate the public about cats in captivity and why they make terrible pets, and also about issues facing cats in the wild.
The cats at BCR get fed once a day, seven days a week. They are fed close to dusk, which is when they would go out hunting in the wild. Their main diet is a commercial carnivore diet called ‘mush,’ which is the ground up organs and intestines of cows. This has a lot of protein and nutrients in it, and is fortified with vitamins. They also eat raw chicken, raw red meat, chicken necks, and, twice a week, whole prey (already dead, humanely killed rabbits or rats). The whole prey is needed to vary their diet, and also to provide them with roughage in the form of fur and bones. It comes to us from a man who supplies the pet snake industry and the animals are humanely euthanized. The amount of food we feed depends on the size of the cat, and whether their weight is healthy. Every night except whole prey night, we feed out about 500 lbs of meat.
To feed the big cats, we first coax them out of their lockout area, which is either a roofed section containing the water and feeding blocks, or a smaller cage attached to the side of their main cage. Then we drop a guillotine door to keep the cats out while we put the meat in. Once the food is in and all keepers’ hands are out of the cage, we can open the door to let the cats in. They are far too aggressive and dangerous to feed waiting right there. The smaller cats can be fed while in lockout because they have a shorter reach and are less dangerous. Feeding and cleaning cages is all done from the outside of the cage. We don’t touch our cats or go in the cages with them.
ODDS & ENDS TO ADD WHEN AT A LOSS OR WALKING or at the beginning
The cats’ diets are designed and overseen by our vet and operations staff. Each cat gets the amount, type, and fat content of food that they need. If a cat is overweight, they get mush with a lower fat content, and if they’re underweight, they get mush with a higher fat content. Cats that have bad teeth or have lost teeth have boneless diets and their meat is cut into bite-sized pieces for them.
Show the guests the feeding sheet and explain how it works. The sanctuary is divided up into 5 sections at feeding time, and each section has between 10-30 cats in it. A team of feeders feeds each section, and they refer to the feeding sheet to know what to feed each cat on each night. The sheet tells the name, species and diet of each cat. At the bottom are the total amounts of tubes of mush, pieces of chicken, etc. that should be in the buckets. These are double counted before we leave the food prep building. This way we are sure that everyone got the correct diet, and that we didn’t miss any cats.
Cats’ sense of smell is about 14 times better than ours.
Cats’ vision is about 6 times better than humans in the dark. This is due to a special membrane on the front of the eye called the tapetum lucidum, which gathers any available light in the environment (starlight, moonlight, a street light) and reflects it back into the retina. So they can see in almost no light. They cannot see in complete darkness. This membrane is what gives their eyes that green shine in the dark.
Whiskers play a very important part in the cat’s hunting abilities. They are very sensitive, moveable hairs embedded in the face and legs which are specialized for tactile sensation (touch), much like the skin. Cats rely on whiskers to find prey in the dark when their vision is compromised. Whiskers can detect movement, location of the prey, aid in exploration and locomotion, and are necessary to maintain the cat’s balance and equilibrium.
We give the cats medication in their diets or inside pieces of meat fed off a stick. The meds are given out in the morning and evening. Some meds, like glucosamine and fish oil, are mixed into the mush so the cats won’t taste them. The cats have to eat their meds before they eat any other food. The cats don’t always like getting meds and often will eat the meat and spit the pills out, just like a house cat. So we have to continuously adjust what kind of meat we put the pills into: we use the regular meat, plus chicken hearts and livers, ground beef, chicken, and turkey, and sometimes fish or whole chicks.
Cats only have pointy teeth, and they use them as scissors to bite off pieces of meat and swallow it whole. They don’t need the flat molars to grind the food into paste like we do. They have canines, which are the long fangs, carnassials, which are the smaller teeth on the sides, and incisors, which are the small flat teeth at the front. Those are for pulling off the fur and feathers of their prey.
Cat tongues are very rough because they are covered with barbs. The barbs face backwards and help them bring water into their mouths when drinking. The tongues are also used to comb out and clean the fur, and big cat tongues are rough enough to lick the meat off the bones of the kill.
Cats’ hearing is about 6 times better than ours. Most cats can pinpoint a sound 3 feet away from them within 3 inches.
GIVE THE CAT’S NAME AND A BRIEF SUMMARY OF THEIR STORY. THEN CAT FACTS.
Ocelots live in Central and South America. They used to live in the southern U.S., but were hunted
almost to extinction here for their beautiful coats—about 50 ocelots remain in Texas as of now. In the wild they are nocturnal hunters who eat mostly small rodents, rabbits and possums, but will also take bigger prey like deer, anteaters, and tortoises when available. They are excellent climbers and will catch prey in the trees, such as monkeys. Like all cats, they have very rough tongues with which to clean their fur and lick meat right off the bones of their prey. They also have some of the smelliest and most acidic urine of any of the cats.
Servals live in Africa and are phenomenal hunters. Their large ears allow them to hear mice and lizards walking underground, so they are waiting to catch them when they come out of their burrows. They can also jump 10 feet in the air and catch birds in flight. They use their paws to swat the birds to the ground and eat them. Although the serval is specialized for catching rodents, it is an opportunistic predator whose diet also includes birds, hares, hyraxes, reptiles, insects, fish, and frogs. The serval has been observed taking larger animals, such as deer, gazelle, and springbok, though over 90% of the serval’s prey weighs less than 7 oz. The serval eats very quickly, sometimes too quickly, causing it to gag and regurgitate due to clogging in the throat. (We see this all the time at BCR!) Small prey is devoured whole. The serval utilizes an effective plucking technique in which they repeatedly toss captured birds in the air while simultaneously thrashing their head from side-to-side, removing mouthfuls of feathers, which they discard. Servals have a kill rate of 50%, making them the second-best cat hunter in the world. The only cat with a better kill rate is the house cat, which is at 80-90%. The big cats have a terrible kill rate, 15-25%, because they are hunting very large, fast, and dangerous prey like buffaloes and wildebeest. They miss a lot, and they have to back off frequently because they will overheat or they can get injured by hooves and horns. Small cats like the serval are catching much smaller, less dangerous prey so it is easier for them. Serval hearing is so good they often catch prey just by listening to it and not even seeing it. They can hear and catch rodents 20 feet away. Servals consume about 8,000 rodents a year in the wild.
We have several hybrids here including Savannah cats (a serval/domestic cross), a caraval (caracal/serval cross), and a bobcat/lynx hybrid. They are bred in captivity for sale as very expensive designer pets who can cost upwards of $10,000. They don’t exist in the wild, because these species don’t mate naturally. Hybrids suffer from genetic defects that usually require surgery and special diets because they cannot properly digest regular cat food. The most common ailment that we see is inflammatory bowel disease and projectile diarrhea. All of our hybrids eat raw meat, just like the other cats here.
The leopard is one of the smartest and deadliest cats in the world, and a very successful hunter due to its extreme stealth and speed, which can top 35 mph. Leopards are native to Africa and Asia, and can be black or golden. They are excellent hunters, capable of lifting 2-3 times their body weight high into a tree—close to 600 lbs. for a bigger leopard. They stash their kills up there so they can return to feed and other large carnivores won’t steal their food (lions, tigers, hyenas). It is their large skulls and extremely strong jaw muscles that allow them to do this. Their main diet is several types of antelope, but they are opportunistic hunters, and actually have a diet of over 30 different animals, including carrion. Black leopards are rarer than golden ones, and mostly occur in the mountains (such as Mount Kenya) and forests of Southeast Asia. In these habitats the dark fur affords them great camouflage. Leopards of every color can leap 20 feet horizontally and about 10 feet vertically, and will swim if they have to. Sabre is unique on whole prey nights because he will de-fur his entire rabbit before eating it. Cats in the wild often remove the fur or hide from their kill, but here at BCR most of the cats eat the rabbit, fur and all.
This is a species of cat known most commonly as the cougar, puma, panther, or mountain lion. This is the largest cat in the U.S., weighing up to 200 lbs. They are capable of jumping 18 feet vertically, 40 feet horizontally, and are excellent runners and jumpers. Cougars are very agile and very strong, which allows them to bring down large, fast prey like deer, coyotes, moose, and bighorn sheep, as well as rabbits, raccoons, and birds: pretty much anything from a mouse to a moose. They hunt by stalking to within 30 feet of their prey, then pouncing and killing with a bite to the neck with their long canines. The cat drags a kill to a preferred spot, covers it with brush, and returns to feed over a period of days. These cats are very elusive, and stay well hidden and silent even when on the run, which is where they get one of their other names, “ghost cat.”
The lynx is the larger cousin to the bobcat. This species lives in Canada and the far northern U.S. Canadian lynx are specialized for hunting in the snow, as they have large paws with thick fur covering them, which act as snowshoes and allow the cat to remain on top of the snow while running. This cat is a specialist in terms of its diet also—they rely almost entirely on the snowshoe hare. No other predator has such a strong cyclic prey base to which it has become uniquely adapted – both behaviorally and physiologically. The snowshoe hare population peaks every 10 years, and with it, so does the lynx population. When the hare population decreases, so does the lynx population. While lynx will change their prey base when hares are low to include small rodents, ground birds, and small ungulates, the overall lynx population is still synchronous with the hare population.
Bobcats live in every state in the US, including Florida. They primarily eat rabbits, but will also hunt
rodents, bats, beaver, squirrels, and even large prey like deer, which are about 6 times the size of a bobcat. Bobcat teeth, like all big cat teeth, are specialized for catching and killing prey. Bobcat canines are about 2 inches long, very sharp, and capable of inflicting serious puncture wounds. In size, shape and number, they are similar to your housecat’s teeth. The bobcat hunts by stealth, but delivers a deathblow with a leaping pounce that can cover 10 feet (3 meters). They are fierce and feisty little cats.
Tigers are some of the largest and deadliest predators in the world. Tigers have 1,000 lbs of pressure per square inch in their jaw (humans have about 100), and in the wild can kill prey as large as a water buffalo with a bite to the back of the neck. Their favorite prey in the wild is several types of deer and wild pig, but they are opportunistic and will eat birds, reptiles, and other mammals as well. Tigers are also gorge eaters, and can eat up to 90 lbs. of meat in a sitting. Tigers have the longest canines of any cat, at 4-5 inches long. Those allow them to deliver a killing bite to the back of the neck or throat of their prey. The claws are 3 inches long with blades on the inside, and the tiger uses these as hooks when they wrap their arms around the neck of their prey, sink in the claws and teeth, and bring it down to the ground. You can see how much bigger the front paws and shoulders are for this purpose. Tigers can reach 40 miles an hour at a run. Other tiger facts: One tiger has the strength of 13 men. Tigers love water and will swim up to 20 miles a day in the wild. They are strong enough swimmers to cross fast rivers.
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